DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Retro Blues: They’re What’s New

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on July 9, 2012

Headline act Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes will be at the Soapbox Saturday night.

Cape Fear Blues Festival • Friday, July 27 – Sunday, July 29

Sometimes, to be on the leading edge of the blues, you gotta look back. Case in point: this year’s Cape Fear Blues Festival. The headliner for the annual event is EllerSoul recording artist Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes. This group mixes up elements of 50s R&B, soul, vintage rock & roll and jazz into a unique blend of American roots music.

It’s retro, baby, and it’s fun.

In fact, this whole Festival, which takes place July 27 – 29 at multiple venues is going to be a blast.

Friday, July 27. The fun starts Friday evening at 5:30 with Sweet Sue Savia entertaining on the riverboat dock (Water St. at Dock St.), as folks are waiting to board the Henrietta III for the 2012 Blues Cruise along the Cape Fear River.

Savia, like so many musicians, has a great story to tell. She says she woke up at age 51 and realized that she’d hate to come upon her death one day without at least trying to fulfill her life’s dream: performing on stage. So she took a leap of faith and jumped into a successful career of singing, songwriting and playing guitar (actually just about any acoustic instrument, but the guitar is her main axe).

How cool is that? And we haven’t even left the dock yet.

FYI, boarding begins at 6:30 p.m. and the boat leaves promptly at 7:30 p.m.

Onboard the Henrietta III, there will be three bands on three decks with three cash bars, along with heavy appetizers and a gorgeous sunset on the Cape Fear.

Here’s the Cruise lineup:

On the main deck will be Elliott & the Untouchables. This will be a super show, I promise you. Elliott New is a master of retro blues, whether he’s playing jump blues or slide – and he’ll do plenty of both. The whole band is topnotch, in fact. The horn section is classic old school. Like to dance? You’ll be in boogie heaven!

Up on the second deck, aka the party deck, we’ve got the Dynamic Therm-o-Tones. The ultra-popular Wilmington band is known for their blues-driven R&B. They’re the dance band of dance bands.

Randy McQuay will be playing the third deck, or atrium as it’s called. This versatile and exciting performer won the 2011 Cape Fear Blues Challenge in the solo category. If you’ve never seen him, this is a great introduction.

Festival organizer and head honcho for the Cape Fear Blues Society Lan Nichols told me, “Randy McQuay is an International Blues Challenge finalist and winner of the Lee Oskar Top Harmonica Player Award.  By himself, he’s reason enough to ride the Cape Fear Blues Cruise.”

But, happily, the two-hour Cruise gives you plenty of time to get to all three acts, which is a good thing, because you’ll kick yourself if you miss any one of them. Advance tickets for the 2012 Blues Cruise are $49 each and can be purchased online now at http://www.capefearblues.org/cruise.html or call 910-350-8822 for more information.

Over at the Rusty Nail (1310 South 5th Street),one of my favorite Wilmington haunts,  the post-cruise party starts about 9 p.m. with  Lawyers, Guns & Money, a great R&B-infused blues band out of Greensboro, N.C. These guys were semi-finalists at IBC last year and winners of the Cape Fear Blues Challenge. It’ll be a fun night that lasts late into the night.

Saturday, July 28. The annual (and free) blues workshop features guitarist Elliott new. According to Nichols, “Untouchables band leader Elliott New will amaze everyone at the Blues Workshop at Finkelstein Music, 11 a.m. on Saturday (6 S. Front St.).  Elliott sports a cigar box guitar, tons of talent, and a sense of humor.  One hell of a Bluesman!” Consider yourself warned.

At 1 p.m., E-Train and the Rusted Rails roar into town with a stop under the tent at the Rusty Nail. This exciting band, with a great mix of rockabilly, swing and blues, was voted best band by the Triangle Blues Society in 2011 and the Cape Fear Blues Society in 2010, sending them to Memphis to compete at IBC both years. Don’t miss the train this time around.

For the headline show, we move over to the Soapbox Laundro-Lounge (255 N. Front Street) for Li’l Ronnie & the Grand Dukes. Nichols was thrilled to sign them for the Festival. He says, “L’il Ronnie & The Grand Dukes have been a favorite of blues, beach and boogie crowds for years, and Ronnie has a new lineup that’s as sharp as a tack.  Anyone who comes down to the Soapbox in Wilmington on July 28 is in for show-stopping performance.  And the club is in the heart of downtown Wilmington – a great location.” Tickets are $10 in advance (www.etix.com) and $12 at the door. Show time is 8 p.m.

Back at the Rusty Nail again, music starts at 9 p.m. and goes until about 1 a.m. with local faves, the Chickenhead Blues Band.  Frontman Rick Tobey says, “I was born in a south Louisiana chicken coop with a bottle neck on my little finger and a guitar in my hand. Been playin’ dem Chickenhead Blues ever since I could crawl, from the Mississippi Delta to the North Carolina Piedmont, from the Cape Fear River Basin to the Smokey Mountains.”

I know I’ve used that quote before, but it’s all you need to know about Chickenhead Blues. Love, love, love this band.

Sunday, July 29. The finale to the Cape Fear Blues Festival is an all-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail. Music starts at noon and it’s all free to the public. Be sure to bring a lawn chair or blanket, but no coolers please. Food and drink will be available for sale all day. Musicians, to reserve your performance time slot, call 910-383-1247.

Plan on staying until the end, because not only is it an afternoon of blues, blues and more blues, but the Finklestein Music Guitar Giveaway is at 6 p.m. Some lucky sumbitch is going home with a Gretsch guitar. Raffle tickets for the Giveaway are $1 each and available at Finklestein Music and the Rusty Nail. Proceeds go to support the various programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.

In case you’re still in party mode, at 7 p.m. it moves indoors with saxophonist Benny Hill’s Sunday night jazz and blues jam at the Rusty Nail.

I love me some Cape Fear blues. Hope to see you there!

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Cape Fear Blues Fest Line-Up

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on May 5, 2009
Elliott & the Untouchables - Columbia, S.C. group.

Elliott & the Untouchables - Columbia, S.C. group.

Blues Society Announces ‘Carolina-Grown’ Line-Up For July Festival

The annual Cape Fear Blues Festival, number 14 this year, is set for July 24 – 26 in Wilmington, N.C. Events will include the Friday night blues cruise on the Henrietta III; a post-cruise blues party at The Rusty Nail; a daytime concert at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater; a sundown concert in downtown Wilmington at Water Street, the popular blues workshop held at Finkelstein Music; Saturday night shows at 16 Taps and The Rusty Nail; and the always popular all-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail on Sunday.

A dozen blues acts from the two Carolinas will be rockin’, wailin’ and whisperin’ the blues throughout the weekend. Elliott and the Untouchables from Columbia, S.C. will take the helm for the Cruise Friday evening. Be ready for a hot set of swingin’ blues and some mighty strong vocals. Front man Elliott New will also be conducting the workshop at Finkelstein’s Saturday morning. The Charlotte, N.C.-based Contagious Blues Band will be rockin’ during the sundown concert. They’ll take you from traditional to modern blues in a Memphis minute. No wonder they were named the Beale Street Blues Kings in 2008.

Also performing will be duo winners of the Cape Fear Blues Challenge, ETrain & the East Coast Acoustic Armada, and band winners, Ten Dollar Thrill. Festival goers will also be treated to the R&B stylings of the five-piece Dynamic Therm-O-Tones. In 2004, this Wilmington group took the Cape Fear Blues Challenge by storm and then took their show to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Also on the roster is Tommy B & the Stingers, another southeastern North Carolina group, who, by the way, have been named Beat Magazine’s No. 1 Blues Band three years in a row AND Best Blues Band in the Wilmington area, also three years in a row. If you haven’t seen this rhythmic blues and boogie band yet, it’s time you did!

Add to all this Wilmington’s Spider Mike Bochey, Rick Tobey & the Chickenhead Blues Band, the jazzy guitar of El Jaye Johnson, the Cape Fear Blues Band, the Cape Fear Blues All Stars and the uber-electrified Gypsy Fire. Whether you like your blues rockin’, stompin’, gravelly, smooth, sexy, raw or raucus … you’ll find it at the Port City’s weekend of blues. According to organizer Lan Nichols, the Cape Fear Blues Society is working closely with all of these venues to ensure continuity and a successful staging of each event. Some of the event show times and dates haven’t been finalized yet.

Check www.capefearblues.org for ticket availability, prices and other details. If you’re a blues lover, plan on spending the last weekend in July in Wilmington, N.C. There’s nothin’ like Port City Blues to chase the blues away.

This post is being published in the May 7 – 21, 2009 issue of Coast magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, Beach Newz column, p. 24.